The world of franchising is no longer the boys’ club it once was, as more female entrepreneurs have taken a place in franchising. Between 2007 and 2018, women-owned businesses increased by 58 percent, compared to the national average of 12%, according to a report commissioned by American Express. Not to mention, women are now majority owners of roughly 38 percent of U.S. businesses. The numbers have continued to grow this year.
Female Entrepreneur in Franchising Spotlight: Marisa Faunch
Among the trailblazers is Marisa Faunce, a partner at Plave Koch PLC, a firm that specializes in franchise law. Faunce provides legal counsel to franchisors and licensors regarding regulatory and intellectual property matters throughout the development and growth of their franchises.
Alongside her work at Plave Koch PLC, Faunce serves as the Chair of the Women’s Franchise Committee (WFC) of the International Franchise Association (IFA). The committee strives to “empower leaders in franchising by promoting women’s participation in the industry and providing international networking opportunities.” In her role as Chair, Faunce has helped advise women interested in franchising.
The committee strives to “empower leaders in franchising by promoting women’s participation in the industry and providing international networking opportunities.”
“Our committee supports women in franchising and makes sure that women have a network of other women to meet with,” Faunce said. “The numbers of women in franchising are increasing and the trend is phenomenal. We’re seeing this shift in corporate America in general where women are feeling more empowered.”
“We’re seeing this shift in corporate america in general where women are feeling more empowered.”
At the recent IFA Franchising Expo in New York City, Faunce moderated a seminar that aims to introduce women to franchising. The seminar featured several panelists, all women in franchising, that provided different tips and tricks they had found to be useful. For many women, responsibilities like child care create an obstacle, deterring them from small business ownership, according to Faunce. However, she does not believe that outside responsibilities or interests should keep women from purchasing a franchise. Rather, women need to find franchise opportunities that work with their home life.
“One of the things I heard from women on the panel is that they were doing research on brands that would fit their family and workplace balance,” Faunce said. “Women need to think about making their ownership of a franchise fit with their outside interests.”
“Women need to think about making their ownership of a franchise fit with their outside interests.”
Research is a key piece of advice that the panelists, Faunce included, expressed to attendees. Women need to use resources such as the IFA website to fully inform themselves of the different franchising opportunities out there, Faunce explained.
“I would encourage women who are interested in either starting or purchasing a franchise to reach out to the IFA,” Faunce said. “Women can also connect with [the WFC] and we can put them in touch with the WFC women’s network in their area. I encourage them to do a lot of research on the brands they’re interested in purchasing a franchise with.”
Faunce anticipates that the number of women in franchising will continue its upward trend in the coming years. “Franchising is a big driving force in our economy,” Faunce said. “It’s a phenomenal space for men and women alike.”
To help us get a clear perspective on the factors that are driving up women’s representation in franchising today, we examine the most noteworthy trends for female entrepreneurs.
Trends for Female Entrepreneurs
As with nearly every industry, female entrepreneurs are breaking the glass ceiling in franchise ownership. For instance, Forbes reported that the number of women who owned franchise businesses increased by 24%, in the last decade. It further stated that 41% of all new franchise businesses opened in the last two years are owned by women.
It’s an exciting time for women to own and run their franchise businesses as these allow greater flexibility than a regular desk job. Female entrepreneurs value work-life balance that helps them fulfill their other commitments like dropping and picking their kids from school and dance recitals, grocery shopping, health checkups, and financial investment appointments, among others. Women are also said to be great at multitasking which helps them juggle multiple work and personal commitments on any given day.
Low risk may be another reason for female entrepreneurs to opt for proven business models rather than build a business from the ground up. Venturing into franchise businesses is also a safer move in financial respects as they present a lesser risk.
According to Forbes, women tend to outshine their male counterparts in most areas of emotional intelligence, which helps explain why they perform exceedingly well in franchise businesses that require a close collaboration with not just the customers but also the franchisor. Women also display a great propensity for teamwork and have excellent communication skills, facilitating engagement with the target customers on a deeper level, which in turn helps widen their customer base.
Another factor that perhaps contributes to women’s success in running a flourishing business is their educational background. A noteworthy trend that has emerged is that female entrepreneurs, who own small businesses are more educated, compared to the average entrepreneur. Thirty percent of female small business owners have a bachelor’s degree, compared to seventeen percent of the average while six percent of women who own small businesses have a PhD compared to four percent of average entrepreneurs.
Female entrepreneurs have paved the way for budding businesswomen by running successful business franchises while simultaneously enjoying a good degree of independence and flexibility in running their operations. In the next section, we examine the other side of the coin by exploring how some noteworthy female entrepreneurs have launched their own business empires that offer franchising opportunities to other prospective entrepreneurs.
Notable Examples of Female Entrepreneurs in Franchising
Many remarkable women have taken the lead and built their own businesses. Given their natural leadership skills and ingenuity for creating new ventures, it comes as no surprise that many of these female entrepreneurs have successfully turned their businesses into empires and have sold the license to their business franchises to budding entrepreneurs.
We present some of the most notable female entrepreneurs with successful business chains that other entrepreneurs want to align with:
The Build-A-Bear Workshop needs no introduction but it’s perhaps a little known fact that it was Maxine Clark – a female entrepreneur – who thought of the concept when a 10 year-old questioned her why she couldn’t make her own stuffed bear when she didn’t find one of her liking.
The female entrepreneur immediately sensed the unique opportunity and opened the first Build-A-Bear Workshop in St. Louis in 1997. It soon turned into a profitable venture with 400 stores worldwide. She earned many business awards and honors including being inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
Build-A-Bear offers franchising opportunities with comprehensive training and ongoing support, albeit outside of the United States and in a few select countries.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
After pursuing teaching and horse training, Ruth Fertel bought a small restaurant, Chris Steak House, which was located on the corner of Broad and Ursuline in New Orleans in 1965. She had to mortgage her house to fund the purchase.
But when the restaurant caught fire, she was compelled to open her first Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurant, which proved to be a huge success. A regular customer called Tom Moran opened the first franchise in the same year. The chain now has 130 plus company and franchise-owned locations across the globe.
Fertel sold her majority interest in the chain in 1999 to a private equity firm. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2002 at age 75 but she has lived on in spirit as the restaurant chain she founded gained more expansion.
The Body Shop
Anita Roddick, the legendary founder of The Body Shop (which again needs no introduction) had earlier tried her hand in the restaurant and hotel business. After unsuccessful attempts she launched her first shop with the winning body products in 1976 in England to build an income for herself and her two daughters while her husband was traveling the globe.
What’s more, just six months after opening her first shop, she launched her second shop. Plus she started providing franchising opportunities which helped open her stores worldwide. She had sold her company to Loreal approximately a year before her death in 2007.
Orangetheory, a boutique fitness chain, was co-founded in 2010 by Ellen Latham, who has earned many business awards since.
The fitness chain’s one-hour metabolic training program consists of a blend of strength training and cardio, using exercise equipment like treadmills, indoor water-rowers, and free weights. They began providing franchising opportunities which helped expand its base to 630 locations nationwide.
- Explore: Fitness Franchise Opportunities
In a nutshell, the last decade has proved that female entrepreneurs are set to conquer the world of franchise businesses, as they have taken center stage in other sectors too.
As franchising continues to grow, it will be exciting to witness female entrepreneurs take ownership of a higher proportion and a wider variety of franchises, setting the stage for women dominance in what has essentially been a male-dominated industry. Hopefully, the rising trend will encourage even more women to venture into franchise ownership, employ and empower more women, and help bridge the income gap.
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